Oakland City Council approves budget that includes defunding police department

Bay Area

OAKLAND, Calif. (KRON) – The Oakland City Council has approved a budget that includes defunding the police department. 

A city council member tells KRON4 why she believes redirecting the funds will increase public safety.

“For me it’s not about defunding. For me it’s about where do I want to invest,” Lynette Gibson McElhaney said.

Redirecting a portion of OPD’s $330-million annual budget and investing it in alternative public safety resources and programs. 

That is one of the primary goals in the mid-cycle budget passed by a majority of the Oakland City Council.

“We reduced our expenditures in police by about $12-million,” McElhaney said.

The revised budget was the work of the city council’s equity caucus led by Finance Committee Chair Lynette Gibson McElhaney. 

She says giving police more time to respond to violent crime is the aim of the new budget.

“What we want to do is get to better policing on the serious and significant crimes, murder, sex trafficking, kidnapping, rape, and relieve the department of any of the things that are better suited for social workers, that are better suited for therapists, that are better suited for a community response,” McElhaney said.

Among the programs receiving a funding boost is the city’s department of violence prevention and the police commission’s mobile assistance community responders of Oakland, a pilot project modeled after a civilian crisis response program in Eugene, Oregon.

“The goal that we want to get to is a city that is ultimately safe without a reliance of those who carry a gun,” McElhaney said.

The councilmember says she knows what it is like to have police respond to a call involving a loved one needing mental health assistance.

“I was terrified! I literally threw my body around this young woman and refused to allow her to be handcuffed but the protocol was that she be handcuffed in the middle of a mental health crisis. That protocol is broken,” McElhaney said.

She says the revised budget also allows for the council to study what it will take to reduce OPD’s usage of the city’s general purpose funds by 50% by the next budget.

“We know that we can’t police our way to public safety. We have to do the things that create healthy whole communities,” McElhaney said.

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